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    2018 - 07.03

    Truth and authenticity are critical in election campaigns, certainly for candidates seeking public office, but also for anyone else wanting to contribute to the debate that will inform how we vote.

    In election campaigns we’re making a choice about our future, and our kids’ future, and we should be able to do that with all the facts on the table.

    Because I believe in this principle and because, as chief executive officer of Whitehaven Coal, I place a high value on how we’re perceived in the local community, it’s important I respond to Phil Spark’s recent opinion piece.

    I don’t dispute that there’s a legitimate debate to be had about how mining, agriculture and other land uses can and should co-exist. It’s a debate I’m very happy to have, because Mr Spark is not being straight with you.

    Whitehaven has invested nearly a billion dollars to build Maules Creek.

    Over four years, we’ve navigated one of the most painstakingly thorough environmental approvals processes in existence, totally transparently, and subject to a level of scientific and technical scrutiny that our opponents could never survive.

    We’ve spent many thousands of dollars defending spurious legal challenges brought by the Environmental Defenders Office, which incidentally has spent many thousands of your taxpayer dollars pursuing them.

    Those opposed to Maules Creek have misled the community with falsehoods. They’ve intimidated our workforce, damaged our property and, on occasion, put lives at risk. They’ve selfishly consumed local police resources to indulge their ideological worldview.

    We’ve gone through all of this, as locals will know, to build a mine in a residual state forest that’s been heavily logged for decades; an area rightly found suitable for only two future land uses: more logging, or mining.

    The Maules Creek mine, far from being destructive, is providing an enormous economic stimulus to the region through the creation of hundreds of jobs, including for the local Indigenous population, which I’m proud to say already makes up 16 per cent of our workforce.

    Mr Spark won’t acknowledge this, because Mr Spark hates coal mining. He doesn’t have a viable plan to provide energy security. He doesn’t care if your power bills triple or quadruple. He doesn’t have a plan for giving young people training, jobs and a future in our community. He deals in absolutes.

    Mr Spark says the approvals process for Maules Creek has been “exposed as flawed”. But that’s not true. Not a single parliamentary, regulatory or legal authority has made this finding.

    Mr Spark says he sent “evidence of false information … through Kevin Anderson to Government”, as if the act of posting a letter makes its contents true. It’s shockingly unfair to Mr Anderson, a week out from election day, to imply he was in possession of “smoking gun” evidence. It doesn’t exist, and the Department of the Environment said as much after formally investigating this absurd claim.

    The assertion that the mining lobby has captured the NSW Nationals is not just a lie, it’s mischievous, because Mr Spark knows politicians didn’t approve this project – the expert independent Planning Assessment Commission did.

    Mr Spark says the NSW Environment Minister should visit Maules Creek to check out why 400 people have been arrested there. I’ll save Rob Stokes the trip and tell him it’s because they broke the law.

    There is a legitimate debate to be had about climate change and our future sources of energy, including transitioning to cleaner fuels like the high-quality coal being mined at Maules Creek. I think cleaner coal is the best, most pragmatic way to reduce carbon emissions in the short term, while ensuring we can keep the lights on.

    Elections ought to bring out the best in us. For all his high-handed comments about people power and democracy, Mr Spark has ignored the one currency that matters: the truth.

    Paul Flynn

    Whitehaven CEO

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